Football: A driving force moulded by fierce disappointment: As Forest bid farewell to Brian Clough, Joe Lovejoy looks back at a career of candour and quirkiness which brought colour to the game

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The Independent Online
BRIAN CLOUGH waited half a lifetime to dominate an England press conference. What a pity he had to retire to do it.

Some will insist that was a good thing, of course. Characters of Cloughie's magnitude will always polarise public opinion, and he has never been short of detractors.

His achievements, though, cannot be denied. In these increasingly elitist times, the feat of transforming two down-at-heel Second Division clubs into League champions may never be equalled. Among his peers, he remains the doyen. Evidence of that, if any was needed, was forthcoming within minutes of yesterday's announcement.

Graham Taylor arrived at Wembley expecting the talk to be of Gazza and Gullit, but instead found himself speaking in lengthy tribute to a man who, he acknowledged, might have been doing his job. Clough's departure, Taylor said, would 'close a glorious chapter in the game's history'.

Growing concern about the increasing likelihood of Nottingham Forest's relegation had produced an attempt from within the club to unseat him, but no one expected an abdication speech at a time when the team's future was still in the balance.

Typical Clough. Always doing the unexpected. Why had he done it? At 58, he knows the glory days are confined to the memory, and the old boy's pride has undoubtedly been hurt by the descent into the relegation morass, but his behaviour has long been a mystery.

Getting to know the man has been virtually impossible. He is unique among managers in that he never attends post-match press conferences, and even those who pay the going rate for sharing his thoughts (plus VAT, naturally) tend to get no more than outrageous self-parody or fawning adulation of some ill-deserving cipher - all, one suspects, delivered with tongue lodged firmly in cheek.

From what we do know, it is fair to assume that the greater part of his motivation has come from a curtailed, and unfulfilled, playing career.

A prodigious goalscorer with Sunderland and Middlesbrough, he had won two international caps, and was in the process of establishing himself as England's centre-forward when, on Boxing Day 1962, a knee injury condemned him to premature retirement at the age of 26.

He once said that everything he had done since had been not the slightest compensation for the dreams that died that bleak December day.

Cruel experience had done much to mould his character, and he was to be a hard man - one to cross at your peril - throughout a managerial vocation which began at Hartlepool, in 1965.

The youngest manager in the League, at 29, he still had the nous to draw on the greater experience of Peter Taylor, the goalkeeper in his Middlesbrough days, who had moved into small-time management with Burton Albion. The two were to remain partners until an acrimonious divorce after an unhappy sojourn at Brighton in 1973-74.

Together, they did well enough with unpromising material at Hartlepool to get their chance with a big club, wallowing in mediocrity. Clough succeeded Tim Ward at Derby County in 1967, and it was at the Baseball Ground that he leapt to prominence, building one team to get Derby out of the Second Division and another to win the First.

Dave Mackay, an inspired, and inspirational, signing from Tottenham drove them up as champions before giving way to the Todd, McFarland, Gemmill side of fond memory.

It was at Derby that Clough's confrontational style first came to light. He was forever in conflict with Sam Longson, the club's aldermanic chairman, and tales abounded of his tyrannical regime in the dressing-room. One player, Jeff Bourne, was sent out to get a haircut and came back looking like a US Marine, only to be told to get it cut again.

What is he like to play for? Tough. Viv Anderson said: 'I remember one morning at training, it was a really cold day and we all had tracksuit bottoms on. Clough comes along and says: 'Right, tracksuit bottoms off, run in and out of there', pointing to a field of nettles next to the training ground. We were stung to high heaven but we all went - Shilton, Burns, Lloyd and Francis - all experienced internationals. In fact, we all had to go through again. It was the law of the playground, but it worked because nobody argued back. Even now, I'd probably do the same.'

If he was a Tartar, some said he had a heart of gold. In those far off days he enjoyed a good relationship with the Press, who were allowed to travel on the team coach, and one young reporter, who was going through a crisis in his personal life, had an envelope thrust into his pocket when Clough boarded the bus for an away game. Inside were tickets for hack and wife to holiday in the Canaries.

By this stage, those forthright opinions had made a new life for Brian, as television's favourite pundit, and with Derby's directors alarmed by his diversification - he was talking of standing for Parliament as a Labour candidate - the parting of the ways became inevitable.

When it came, there was blood on the walls, with the players locking themselves in the Baseball Ground, demanding his reinstatement, and death threats made to the board. For a day or two it was a close-run thing, but Longson and his cohorts prevailed - the return of Mackay, the old hero, as manager appeasing many, but by no means all, of the rebels.

Clough decamped to Brighton, where he was not a success, his brief reign memorable chiefly for an embarrasing 4-0 defeat by non- League Walton and Hersham in the FA Cup, and after just eight months he was on the move again, this time to Leeds United, of all places.

It was the most unlikely of marriages. Clough's Derby and Revie's Leeds had fought like cat and dog, and the Yorkshire club's official history tells how: 'Like some turbulent priest, Brian Clough descended on Elland Road determined to drive out the spirit of Don Revie and all his works.'

The new manager scarcely endeared himself to his charges by telling them they had won the championship the previous season by cheating. Old sweats like Bremner, Charlton and Hunter were not having it, told Manny Cussins, the chairman, that they would not play for this opinionated upstart, and after 44 days Clough was out on his ear. And made for life.

A pay-off of pounds 200,000 for six weeks work meant his lifelong socialism was now of the millionaire variety. He had no need to work again.

That he did was to be a continuing source of embarrassment not just to Leeds, but also to Derby, who now found him back on their doorstep, and stirring up the neighbours.

There was a strong element of deja vu about it all when he took charge of Nottingham Forest, an ordinary Second Division side, in January 1975, and secured promotion two years later as a precursor to winning the League the following season.

There was one crucial difference. This time, Forest's unique constitution meant there was no board of directors to answer to, only an anaemic committee, which had neither the will, nor the means, to constrain him. He was in his element. The old buffers, as he called them, were putty in the hands of an empire builder whose control was absolute after he had won the European Cup not just once, but in successive years (1979 and '80).

Then, at the height of his powers, he was the best manager in the country, his teams playing a simple push- and-run passing game which was a joy to watch. He was the obvious choice to manage England, and should have had the job in 1977, when Revie, his old bete noire, jumped ship.

Instead, to Clough's profound disappointment, the Football Association preferred the avuncular Ron Greenwood, whose West Ham had never got anywhere in the League.

Why? The abrasive, nasal tones are said to have got up everybody's nose when the men in grey suits, with matching personalities, came to interview the fans' favourite, and he was fobbed off with the managership of the England youth team.

It was the nearest he ever got to the one job he coveted above all others. Greenwood went in 1982, when Clough would again have been the choice of Joe Public, but this time he never got as far as the smoke-filled rooms. Bobby Robson was that year's safe option.

England, potless now since 1966, were probably the losers. An international team playing the Clough way would have been interesting, to say the least. Instead, Old Big 'Ead, as he styles himself, soldiered on at Forest, playing his own appealing version of The Beautiful Game until sadly, his interest, and consequently his powers, started to wane.

The last word belongs to another son of the North-east whose own career was so nearly wrecked by BC's old injury. 'Tell Brian Clough not to quit,' Gascoigne said yesterday. 'Tell him 'Gazza' says don't do it. He's a fantastic bloke and a fantastic manager. We can't afford to lose him.'

Amen to that.


Age doesn't count. It's what you know about football that matters. I know I am better than the 500 or so managers who have been sacked since the war. If they had known anything about the game they would not have lost their jobs. 1965, when joining Hartlepool as youngest League manager.

In this business, you've got to be a dictator or you haven't got a chance. 1965.

Football hooligans? Well, there are the 92 club chairmen for a start. 1980.

There are more hooligans in the House of Commons than at a football match. 1980.

He is like a lot of people who know a job. They think they know a little bit more than they do. 1984, on Malcolm Allison.

Away games are more like school outings. We have problems with acne rather than injuries. 1986, on the young Forest side leading the First Division.

I am a big-head, not a figurehead. 1987, on why he refused company directorships.

I can't promise to give the team talk in Welsh, but from now on I shall be taking my holidays in Porthcawl and I've a complete set of Harry Secombe albums. 1988, on being offered the job of Welsh manager.

I am boiling about what's happened today and I'm going home to think about my next move. I'm going to sleep on it. And if I wake up in the morning still thinking of quitting I'll sleep on it again. And if the feeling remains - then I'll be off - no mucking about. 1988, after the Forest directors refused him permission to accept the Welsh job part-time.

I'm going nowhere. Resignations are for Prime Ministers and cabinets and those caught with their trousers down, not for me. After sleeping on it for two days.

One of the main reasons I never became England manager was because the Football Association thought that I would then take over and run the show. They were dead right. 1985.

We've reached two semi-finals and lost both to the best team in the country (Liverpool). Some clubs would boast about that on their letter-heads. Here, the only place it goes in is the memory. 1991, during Forest's FA Cup run to the final.

In case you hadn't noticed, people like to keep pointing out that I've never won the FA Cup. 1991.

If it meant getting three points on a Saturday I would shoot my grandmother. Not nastily, I would just hurt her. 1992, as Forest struggle at the bottom of the Premier League.

Women run everything. The only thing I have done within my house in the last 20 years is to recognise Angola as an independent state. 1992.

I have always felt like royalty. You are how you feel. It's not conceit. It just happens to be true. 1993, on being made a freeman of the City of Nottingham.

It's a beautiful city, with lovely people. I'm particularly fond of the River Trent - blow me, I've been walking on it for the past 18 years. 1993, same occasion.

Can't avoid the truth. Can't make it look better than it is. Only one thing to be said. We're in the shit. 1993, on relegation.

----------------------------------------------------------------- CLOUGH'S CAREER ----------------------------------------------------------------- 21 March 1935: Born in Middlesbrough May 1953: Joined Middlesbrough July 1961: Signed for Sunderland 26 December 1962: Playing career ended by knee injury vs Bury Playing honours: 2 England caps, 3 U-23 caps Playing record: 251 League goals in 274 games (fastest to reach 200 goals) October 1965: Youngest League manager (29) at Fourth Division Hartlepool United May 1967: Manager of Derby County May 1969: Derby win Second Division May 1972: Derby win championship October 1973: Resigns from Derby, with assistant Peter Taylor, after long dispute with club directors November 1973: Manager of Brighton and Hove Albion July 1974: Manager of Leeds United. Sacked after 44 days because of player unrest January 1975: Manager of Nottingham Forest May 1977: Forest promoted to First Division March 1978: Forest win League Cup April 1978: Forest win championship May 1978: Manager of the Year February 1979: Signs Britain's first pounds 1m player, Trevor Francis, from Birmingham March 1979: Forest retain League Cup May 1979: Forest win European Cup, finish second in League May 1980: Forest retain European Cup February 1989: Charged with bringing the game into disrepute; fined pounds 5,000 and banned from touch-line of all League grounds for the rest of the season December 1989: 1,000th League game as a manager April 1989: Forest win League Cup, Simod Cup April 1990: Forest retain League Cup May 1991: FA Cup finalists March 1992: Zenith Data System Cup winners January 1993: Clough, football's longest-serving manager, celebrates 18th anniversary in charge at the City Ground with Forest bottom of the Premier League March 1993: Freedom of the city of Nottingham April 1993: Forest chairman Fred Reacher announces Clough is to retire at end of the season

----------------------------------------------------------------------- RECORD AT THE CITY GROUND ----------------------------------------------------------------------- Season League FA Cup Lge Cup Europe 1974-75 16th Div 2 4th rd *2nd rd - 1975-76 8th Div 2 3rd rd 3rd rd - 1976-77 3rd Div 2 4th rd 3rd rd - 1977-78 1st Div 1 6th rd Winners - 1978-79 2nd 5th rd Winners EC Winners 1979-80 5th 4th rd Finalists EC Winners 1980-81 7th 6th rd 4th rd EC 1 1981-82 12th 3rd rd QF - 1982-83 5th 3rd rd QF - 1983-84 3rd 3rd rd 2nd rd Uefa Cup SF 1984-85 9th 4th rd 3rd rd Uefa Cup 1st rd 1985-86 8th 3rd rd 4th rd - 1986-87 8th 3rd rd QF - 1987-88 3rd SF 3rd rd - 1988-89 3rd SF Winners - 1989-90 9th 3rd rd Winners - 1990-91 8th Finalists 4th rd - 1991-92 8th QF Finalists - 1992-93 21st 5th rd QF - ----------------------------------------------------------------- *Nottingham Forest were knocked out of 1974-75 League Cup before Clough's appointment as manager ----------------------------------------------------------------- Two League games remaining this season ----------------------------------------------------------------- FOOTBALL MANAGERS ----------------------------------------------------------------- THE LONG . . 24 years Matt Busby (Manchester United) 1945-1969 23 years Jimmy Seed (Charlton Athletic) 1933-1956 23 years Joe Smith (Blackpool) 1935-1958 21 years Billy Walker (Nottingham Forest) 1939-1960 20 years Eddie Davison (Sheffield United) 1932-1952 18 years Brian Clough (Nottingham Forest) 1975-1993 . . . AND THE SHORT 3 days Bill Lambton (Scunthorpe United) 1959 4 days Dave Bassett (Crystal Palace) 1984 13 days Johnny Cochrane (Reading) 1939 18 days Jimmy McIlroy (Bolton Wanderers) 1970 25 days Tim Ward (Exeter) 1953 44 days Brian Clough (Leeds United) 1974 -----------------------------------------------------------------

(Photographs omitted)